Note: "Pacing the Cage" was originally published in Beyond Dreams 1 in 1999.
Dedication: To Carolyn Spencer, who first heard of the pivotal scene years before this novella was written and encouraged me with her gasp; and to Terri, who asked me for a first time story; and to Shelley Butler, who loves domestic and housekeeping stories so much (not!) that I thought I'd write one for her; and to Dusky, who patiently endured all my complaints, provided support during my myriad doubts, and did a wonderful job of editing. For you, friends!
When the historic five year mission of the Enterprise began, Spock of Vulcan was a virgin, and he was not yet afraid.
He realized that his body was not yet completely known, but this caused him little concern. It had stirred at Leila's presence in the lab on Earth, and that had been unexpected, but he had turned from her and easily stomped the stirring into nothingness. During his fourth year under Pike, at the first sight of a young male crewmember from the Enterprise's engineering section -- he was tall, thin, dark, with Vulcan-like calm -- Spock's body had flushed with hot blood, in his face and his hands, and even in his still-immature genitals. This was more surprising, but he did not allow himself to analyze it excessively, and he squashed the body's feeling that could lead to unacceptable emotion as he had been taught to do, and he was successful. After that he ate meals with the man to prove to himself that he could maintain his detached mentality and his lack of physical response. He could.
It was not that Spock was ignorant of the acts of mating. He would not have had such rigorous control of his body's reactions if he had not known of the slow coming-to-life of the Vulcan reproductive system. He understood the Vulcan hormonal array, the complexities of the Vulcan endocrine glands, the Vulcan rituals that bound the body in service to the mind. He understood the compulsions that drove the male in his Time, and he knew the three preferred positions for copulation that would deliver sperm to the waiting egg deep within the body of the female. He had been taught by the relentless Vulcan system that honored knowledge, and so he understood. Thoroughly.
Nevertheless, Spock did not understand himself. He knew this, and yet he did not allow himself to comprehend it. It was a symptom of his lack of self-knowledge that he did not realize the depths of his self-deception. If Spock had possessed close human friends, they would have laughed at him.
But Spock did not have close friends of any species on board Pike's Enterprise. Acquaintances, yes. But friendship? It was kept at a safe distance. And so no one was there to laugh at him, kindly, and to point out his error.
Instead, deep inside himself, Spock scorned the humans. With not a laugh, and not unkindly, but still he scorned them because they were so uncontrolled. They were slaves to the body. Their sexuality was rampant; they indulged themselves in physical sensation without thought to the consequences. They did not ally themselves with the universal forces that insured the survival of the species. They surrendered instead to the momentary pleasure.
Spock was still very young for his species, and he was not yet afraid.
Then James Kirk took command of the Enterprise, he of the sea-green, changeable eyes, and the smile that he never denied his second-in-command. When Kirk turned to him on that first day in the transporter room and with a small curving of lips offered him the Vulcan salute instead of forcing a Terran handshake upon him, Spock took the first step on the long journey to true understanding of self, although his cool rationality would have denied it at the time.
Over the next few months, the fact that Kirk was an exceptionally beautiful individual did not concern him. Nor could his charm affect Vulcans. His confident walk was of no consequence. The talent Kirk displayed for command was proof that the Starfleet Admiralty had not been mistaken in appointing such a young human as captain, but it had nothing to do with Spock's personal relationship with Kirk.
It was Kirk's smile that proved to be Spock's undoing. Kirk smiled at him, and offered his laughter too, and somehow with them the implication that he unveiled himself for Spock's personal perusal. Such an unseemly emotional display. So unVulcan. So fascinating.
Kirk smiled with his words and with his eyes, his chuckles and an occasional guffaw. Sometimes, in his depressed silences. In the rec room and during meals, on the bridge and in the turbo-lift. When Spock won a chess game or when the captain did. In victory, and occasionally in pain-filled defeat.
Kirk laughed at his friends, at his opponents, and at the world he strove to conquer. At himself.
Spock did not understand this gift that should have offended him, but he could not fail to respond to it. His captain, with his very assumption of response, demanded response. Kirk became Spock's friend.
T'hy'la: Friend and brother. Spock was no longer without friendship, and his life began to change. He took steps he had never taken before, outside himself. Eventually, within the first year of his acquaintance with surely the most fascinating being he had ever known, he stepped far enough outside himself to turn and look back. What he saw there amazed him. There was Kirk with a light in his eyes, and standing next to him was a tall, lean individual in blue velour. But this being was not Vulcan. Nor was he human. He was Spock. Himself, without labels. It was a novel concept.
While he was pondering the possibilities of this new realization, without fear, confident in the support of the friend who stood next to him, they visited Omicron Ceti III.
The spores overcame his body, and Leila was beautiful, more beautiful than any Vulcan maiden. Her hair shimmered about her with radiant light, like a sun he could finally look at fully without fear of harm. Relief. Joy. He had not known he had so yearned to look at a sun. He took her into his arms and it was good, he kissed her and her lips molded themselves to his own, they were compliant and surrendering, and a thrill of a totally unknown sort swept through his body. His genitals pulsed. He wanted. . . . He wanted. . . .
He pulled her hard against him, heard her gasp in delight, felt pleasure as he rubbed his erecting penis against her. Somewhere in the distance cool rationality told him that this physical response was not possible, no Vulcan male who had not yet experienced pon farr could complete the sexual act, but the pleasure washed over him like cool waves of water and he did not care. He removed their clothing and pushed her down on the grass, pushed her legs apart and mounted her. He moved clumsily because he had never done this before, had carefully never imagined it, had seen only dry renditions of coitus between two Vulcans while at school, but he knew the mechanics, and he knew what his aching penis wanted, and he slipped it between her legs and pushed.
Wet delight! He wanted it again, and so he removed his penis and thrust into her once more. He moaned, experienced a vast excitement, longer than the distances traveled by the Enterprise, larger than space, further than time, and he moved to stimulate the penile nerve endings again. And again. And again. He did not even know she was under him, did not look to see her face nor attempt to give her some of this joy. He ejaculated, for the first time, with a shout that shook the leaves of the trees and a look of utter astonishment upon his face.
So this was what drove the humans.
Later, a long distance from Omicron Ceti III, Spock reflected on the experience in the dark privacy of his cabin, and he shivered from the cold. No, he told himself, from fear, for a sliver of self-knowledge glimmered like a pale crescent moon.
He was no longer a virgin, and he was afraid.
What did this mean, this out-of-season mating? For those few glorious moments he had felt more connected with his body than ever in his life, but now, days afterwards, he looked at his hands folded in his lap with revulsion. Of what was he capable? That flood of emotions, that terrifying deluge of bodily sensation. Who was he?
The captain had been compelled to use extraordinary means to return him to a memory of his duty, his responsibilities as an officer, and the friendship owed from one man to another. This was unacceptable. Unacceptable! He, as a Vulcan, should have been capable of resisting the spores for longer than any of the humans, and yet he had literally been the first to succumb. Shame traveled the length of his body, and he jerked up from where he was sitting at his desk to stalk across the room. Kirk had depended on him, and Spock had failed his captain, who had given him so much.
Kirk had seen him with Leila.
His fingers tightened against the fretwork of the grill. Never again. He would push the memory of this first sexual experience to the recesses of his mind, he would not indulge himself by replaying the memory, his body would forget the sensations of delight. He would be Vulcan, loyal and reliable. This was but one aberration, not a pattern for life.
And so Spock attempted to exert more control in his life on the Enterprise. None of the regular crew noticed. Doctor McCoy did, and he grumbled to himself, not understanding the life that Spock had led and was attempting to lead again, and Captain Kirk noticed also. But Kirk understood in the way that any true friend would, not in details of truth but in willingness of spirit, and so instead of reaching out to his first officer and asking questions, as he would have with most other friends who had withdrawn into silence and grim concentration, he allowed Spock space and time.
For a few short weeks an equilibrium was reached, Kirk keeping his smiles to himself and yet valuing Spock the more, and Spock intensely grateful for his perceptive human friend -- when biology exerted more control than Spock ever could.
He knew it was pon farr. What else? But while the hot turmoil of his mind should have been drawn to the coolness his bondmate offered, he was confused instead by other scenes, other fires. Shamefully, even during duty hours it was Leila of whom he thought and not T'Pring. He could not keep the one he had already known from his mind, the way his penis had reached for her body and how it had felt for just the tip of it to be encased, and then to slide all the way into her moistness. That thrill, that he should not have known before T'Pring called. He wanted it again, here was the chance to go to Vulcan and copulate with the one secure in his mind, and yet. . . .
He was afraid. He feared the loss of control, every male Vulcan's curse, and he remembered with loathing his failure to the ship, to himself, to Captain Kirk when he had succumbed to the soft blonde seduction of a false Paradise. Spock straightened from his hunched position over a microscope in the biochem lab and wrestled with Leila's image. He would not fail his captain again. He reached for the woman and with satisfaction watched her dissolve into nothingness through his fingers. It was not quite a strangling. Good. Now to do the same with T'Pring.
What arrogance Spock had. No Vulcan could escape pon farr. It is written. It is inevitable.
And so when the nurse, Chapel, delivered a set of tapes to the lab and looked at him with concern and that hopeless love that he had always secretly despised -- emotional humans! -- the cycle began again. She was helpless beneath the length of his body, her legs wrapped around him, crying with pain or with ecstasy in such a human way and he hated her, hated what he wanted to do with her female parts, but he knew now the sensations that sexual intercourse would produce. Spock might have had the strength to deny with his mind, and he forced himself to concentrate on analyzing the data that she had brought, but he did so with a lengthened penis, an accelerated heartbeat, and a muffled groan of despair.
As the days went by it was not just Leila in his mind, nor Chapel soft against his body that stimulated him, but the man in tight exercise shorts as he touched his toes in the gym, and a yeoman's provocative walk, and Lieutenant Uhura's soft voice. He could barely perceive T'Pring's call beneath the avalanche of imagination that his illicit experience inspired, and he staggered through the days not knowing where to turn nor how to make it stop. Go to Vulcan? To the contemptible Chapel? Should he throw himself against a bulkhead and pummel his body into submission through pain?
Worst of all was the night when Kirk called over the intercom to ask for a game of chess, and Spock denied him, and then it was his captain's image that appeared before him, beckoning and smiling, promising. It was Jim who followed him when he threw out his arms in denial and backed across his quarters. And when Spock's knees caught against the bunk and he collapsed back upon the mattress, it was Jim who lowered himself upon his electrified body with cool, delicious caring, and Jim who reached between them to touch -- No! To use his friend, his first friend, his only friend in such a way, such a degrading fantasy that was not real, this could never be real no matter how right it felt, no matter that it felt so much better than with Leila, than with Uhura, with anyone else, no, he didn't want it to be real. . . .
That night, Spock ejaculated for the second time, alone and fevered, and so unhappy.
So it was that when Kirk forced his secret from him, Spock scarcely could look upon his face, he was so ashamed, and yet he also yearned for a touch, for a word, for comfort, for some connection that would tell him he was not alone in his frustrated, confused misery. It was a relief to have Kirk take control and turn the ship towards Vulcan, towards that tenuous thread that bound him to T'Pring. Yes, T'Pring would care for him and ease this insanity. Gratefully he gave himself up to her presence in his mind. Take me, ease my pain, give me back my life.
After that he experienced just moments of lucidity: McCoy in the turbolift, a fleeting impression that Chapel had visited his quarters, Jim Kirk waiting for him in the doorway to the transporter room, quietly saying "Hold on. We're almost there."
And then, chaos, heat, swirling faces and voices, Jim, Jim, Jim.
Jim's limp body under him, dangling from the stranglehold of the ahn woon. Dead.
No matter that within the hour Spock knew his friend lived; for that eternity of minutes he thought he had killed Jim Kirk, and he did not understand how his own self-loathing had not struck him down into the dirt, as dead as Jim.
He hated himself.
As the ship warped out of Vulcan orbit with her rightful captain in the center seat, her first officer sat upon the bed where he had masturbated to his captain's image, and he vowed that never again would he succumb to the sexual.
With a sigh drawn up from every weary cell, he lay down and rested an arm across his forehead. The urgency that had flooded his body for so many days was finally gone, and with relief he yielded his tension to the soft surface. At last, surcease of pain, so much to be desired. How could humans crave those perfidious sensations, how could they devote so large a part of their lives to seeking a mate, to mating, to the exploration of physical sensation? It was illogical, it was incomprehensible. Never again. He would control. His captain would have no cause to doubt him. He would be Kirk's loyal Vulcan friend, and perhaps one day, after many years of effort, Kirk would be able to forget the atrocity Spock had committed upon his person. He had lain upon his captain with the ahn woon, their bodies pressed closely together like lovers, and Kirk had died.
As Spock finally surrendered to the sleep he so desperately needed, he did not even notice his body's stiffening reaction.
How long does it take to recover from the knowledge that you are a murderer? Logical Vulcans would deny the emotional content and go on with their lives, as Spock attempted to do. But a new perception of the world complicated his efforts, and though he tried to deny it, some doors once opened are difficult to close. Over the next few days and weeks, as Spock tried to act as normally as possible while he picked up the shattered pieces of his life, he noticed things that had never gained his attention before.
He could not help but look at the curve of a woman's breast. The new technician assigned to the computer center where he went for reports on the first day back to duty was unusually well endowed. His infallibly accurate monitoring of his body reported a surge of hormones that he savagely suppressed while he blandly requested data. He told himself it was an exercise in self-control, and merely the aftermath of the pon farr, which would weaken.
Several days later he listened to McCoy's advice and went to the gym to indulge in some light exercise in a private room. He would benefit from the integration of body and mind and looked forward to the solitude. Sometimes there were too many people on the Enterprise, never more so than now when it seemed everyone was so solicitous, so caring, especially the bridge crew.
As he dressed in the locker room some young men were preparing for a water polo game. Ensign Gonzalez, merely a name on a roster list to him for the past eight months, became suddenly, vitally alive as he walked before Spock, strutting a generously-sized set of genitals and an exercise-toned physique. Gonzalez's nickname was "Peacock" and Spock understood why. His shoulders were well muscled, his upper arms developed, his pectorals even more defined than Jim's, and it was only logical, Spock told himself desperately, that he should acknowledge a pleasingly formed individual. But it was a lie. Spock had to sit on the bench for another two point two minutes before his penis lost interest in the ensign. It was difficult to understand.
After that it became easier, perhaps because Spock was constantly on guard. He was aware, but not aroused. He began to think he was back in control of his body again, that he had been merely suffering from the lingering remnants of his Time, and that the effects were almost gone.
Then came the night he had a dream he could not remember, except that it was shadowy and sweaty and sex-filled. He awakened with his heart pounding, an urgent need to determine the captain's health, and such a feeling of empty despair that he jack-knifed into the fetal position.
Spock hugged himself in the dark and shivered. He wished. . . . But wishes were illogical and often carried dangerous emotions with them. But still, he wished. . .for someone to touch him, on the shoulder, on the arm. He wished to physically experience some other caring, living flesh. More. For someone to look at him in understanding, to want to reach for him. He considered calling Kirk on the intercom, just to hear his voice and console himself that his captain lived despite his lifeless body on the sands, and despite Spock's dreams in the night.
His hand actually rose towards the button, but then he let it drop. This was illogical. This emotion was another legacy of pon farr, of his uncontrolled fantasies, and he wished it gone. With a self-condemning grunt he forced himself up out of the bed and into the shower.
But the worst came on the morning several days later when he left his quarters for breakfast anticipating a quiet, productive day. Jim was at the end of the corridor waiting for the turbo, and when it came he turned and held the door open with his arm until Spock could reach the lift. Kirk's profile perfectly silhouetted an obvious, impressive erection.
Spock stopped dead in his tracks. Kirk looked at him with quizzically raised eyebrows, not understanding. Of course not. What should a human's autonomic sexual response mean to a Vulcan? Spock had seen his captain aroused before, it was a normal state for Kirk many mornings. It meant nothing. Shortly the bulge in the black pants would be gone unless a stimulating female were to come on board. Spock carefully did not swallow, and he walked forward.
"Good morning, Captain." The doors swished shut and Spock stared at the metal seam. He was much too aware of the small enclosed space, how close they stood together, how close his captain always stood to him. The faint whiff of Kirk's cologne tickled his senses. He rejected the memory of how the phantom Kirk had touched him, but instead the vision of the ahn woon, tightening, came to him. He drew in a deep, audible breath.
"Everything all right today?"
The turbo passed deck six, deck seven, then jogged over one section before descending again.
"Are you eating breakfast this morning, or are you gonna play hooky? I won't tell McCoy if you don't."
A return to normality. Spock risked a quarter turn of his body, a glance at Kirk above waist-level, then he turned back to the door. "McCoy is monitoring my meal card, so he will know even if you do not divulge my neglect. I will eat this morning."
"Good. I want to talk about that computer modification we're due for next week at the 'base, make sure I understand exactly what it will do to our systems. We can talk over coffee."
Gratitude caused Spock this time to look his captain full in the face, and he encountered what he expected, an honest, gentle smile held out to him like a gift. Spock took it.
"That would be acceptable. Although I prefer tea."
Kirk's smile became wider. "I know."
Spock did not think for a moment that his captain did not understand the report on the computer updates. What Kirk understood as well was Spock's unease, whatever its source, and his ability to offer himself to offset it. It was a cruel return for his kindness that the murderous rage of pon farr had made Spock perversely aware of his captain's sexual desirability. This hyper-awareness, the sweaty dream -- they were obscenities.
After shift Spock eschewed food, regardless of McCoy's vigilance, and retreated to the Vulcan heat and light of his quarters. He walked inside just enough for the sensors to register his presence, then leaned with a sigh against the closed doors. Then he straightened from such a lax, undisciplined position and stalked over to his desk, where he sat straight-backed, his fingers steepled before him.
He did not want to live in this sexual world. He rejected it. Being sexual had meant disloyalty, and death, and now it meant distraction from his duties. The excellent performance of his duties was the only way he had to serve Jim Kirk the way he should be served. Other than being his friend. Kirk had offered friendship, expected friendship in return, and how could Spock give him that if his body stirred when Jim was near? What was to be done when the rhythm of his days was marked by his captain's smiles -- on the bridge, over meals, in the turbolift as he had done that morning -- and Spock's contaminated mind and body interpreted the gesture of a friend in an entirely inappropriate way?
If only he were truly Vulcan. Vulcans, he was sure, did not suffer like this. Their sexuality was a trial, but it was sharply defined and apart from everyday life. It did not pervade the day, it did not define the night-time hours.
Intolerable! He could not function so on the ship. Perhaps a human might know how to control this onslaught but he did not. Spock reached forward and contacted Uhura on the bridge, and then he sent a private inquiry to Vulcan.
Three weeks after the day he had effectively killed his commanding officer, he took his courage in his hands and appeared in the captain's cabin. Hands behind his back and as in control of himself as he could be while trying to look only at the captain's face, Spock requested a leave of absence to visit his home planet.
"Are you all right?" Kirk asked from where he sat behind his desk, looking up at him in that open way he had. But Spock refused to believe the totality of caring that he saw so obviously exposed, he extrapolated instead a justified fear. It was likely that Kirk was concerned that pon farr was re-occurring, that his own person was again in danger, and so Spock hastened to reassure him.
"I am well, Captain, but I require a time of seclusion after recent events. I intend to visit a sanctuary in the desert called Gol."
Concern transformed Kirk's features. "Gol? Wait a minute! I've heard of that place." He rose and leaned heavily on the flat of his hands. "Spock, you're not. . . . I know it's none of my business, but. . . . " Kirk drew in a deep breath, "please don't tell me you're going to leave us and try to do the Kohlinahr."
"The Kohlinahr, Captain?" Where had Kirk heard of that obscure Vulcan ritual? "Negative. I would not contemplate such a thing. I made my choice many years ago."
"Oh. That's good. I just thought that. . .well, I know things have been difficult for you lately. . . . I'm glad you're not."
It was as awkward as Spock had ever seen his silver-tongued, self-assured captain. He felt the need to offer further reassurance. "My place is on the Enterprise, Captain. I would not abandon my career."
Kirk slowly seated himself and gestured towards a chair for Spock to sit as well. Although Spock would have preferred the formality of standing, he succumbed to his captain's wishes and sat. He had occupied the same chair many times, during private briefings, strategy sessions, occasionally during a game of chess when the noise in the rec room was too great. There were many evenings of comfort and growing rapport associated with that chair, and so Spock found himself relaxing. It was good to be in Jim's company.
"So." Jim looked at him with a trace of embarrassment. "Sorry about that. I jumped the gun, as Bones would say. I don't have the right to ask you prying questions, but I just. . .don't want to lose you."
Nor did Spock wish to lose Kirk. It was one of the reasons he would make this pilgrimage. "It would be illogical," Spock said slowly, "to ignore the benefits that our partnership on the Enterprise has engendered."
"I know." For some reason, Kirk picked up a stylus and twiddled it between his fingers. "We make a pretty good command team, don't we?" He looked at Spock from under his eyelashes.
Spock had entered these rooms determined to control, and so his body remained quiescent; it was only his mind that moved, that questioned why Kirk should choose this particular method of communicating with him. "Agreed. The list of successful missions with the Enterprise under your command cannot be questioned."
"Not just me, Spock. You, too. Us together."
It was still a new concept for Spock, new enough for him to feel the uniqueness of being included in that social equation that had always excluded him before. Us. One part of a whole, one part of this gratifying team with James Kirk that he would go to Vulcan in order to preserve. "Yes," he said. Then, "Perhaps."
Jim Kirk laughed. "No 'perhaps' about it. Do you really think any captain can function on his or her own? I pity the captain who doesn't have you next to him. I might put in a recommendation that all firsts be Vulcan."
A small silence while Spock searched for something to say. He was unaccustomed to such personal conversations, even with Kirk, and unused to compliments. Illogical, Sarek would say, but still it was pleasing to hear from someone whose opinion he valued.
Before Spock could open his mouth to respond, how he knew not, Kirk went on, staring down at the desk. "As a matter of fact, I can't imagine the Enterprise without you. So. . ." his head came up, his gaze piercing, "make sure you come back from wherever you're going. Okay?"
To this Spock knew the correct answer. "I will return."
Kirk sat up straight, all captainly briskness. "Good. How much time will you need? Will dropping you off at 'base 17 work?"
"I will be able to secure transportation there, yes. And, perhaps twenty days for what I hope to accomplish."
"Twenty days? That long?"
"Counting travel time from this sector, perhaps twenty-six days."
"That's a long time for me to go without my first officer. And my friend. Who will I play chess with?" Kirk's frown quirked into a self-deprecating twitch of the lips. "I'll manage. You make sure you do, too."
Kirk signed the papers and Spock packed his bag, and a few days later the captain walked with him to the transporter room when the time came for him to leave. He raised his hand in the Vulcan salute when Spock stood upon the platform. Kirk looked subdued, perhaps sad would not be too strong a word. "Make sure you come back," he said once again, and Spock felt satisfaction because he was going to be missed. Perhaps the new being he had discovered before Omicron Ceti III -- the Spock who was not-human, not-Vulcan, but only himself, with a friend standing beside him -- perhaps that being was not completely lost. But before the possibilities of that being could be explored, an exorcism must take place.
"I will return as scheduled, Captain. Perhaps sooner if a faster transport can be found." He took his captain's small smile with him as the transporter whined.
//My mind to your mind.//
The Master's mind overtook his own, swamped it, laid over it. . . .
He recoiled, but there was nowhere to go. The Master was within him, he was within the Master. But Sontur was by far the more powerful mind, and so Spock could not help but allow him dominance. Although his body was far away, he knew he shivered.
//Ah. There is the problem. The sexual appetites unleashed by your human heritage. It is interesting, how sexuality can be extended as far as the humans take it. You perceive even this mental joining as such.//
Shame. And determination. He did not wish to be what he was.
//Illogical. You are what you are. But you follow the Vulcan way, as is proper considering that your body is primarily Vulcan and your upbringing has been the same. It is only your recent experience that has allowed contamination. You should consider a retreat from such a way of life.//
Leave the Enterprise? Leave his captain to whom he owed loyalty? Leave the friendship that he treasured? No.
//That may not be a logical decision. Can you live as a Vulcan among such a people, and with a human heritage that complicates your reactions? The control you seek and the life you lead may be otherwise incompatible.//
There was not enough data for him to calculate the probabilities. But in the years before Kirk, before his Time, Spock had managed. He did not wish his life to change. . .except in this one area.
//So be it. We shall make the attempt. We must reinforce your resistance to the subtle seductions that constantly bombard you.//
How would it be accomplished?
//You must disassociate from your hybrid body's sensations. Not unlike the control you learned many years ago, but in your case a more stringent application is necessary. We will begin now. See how to live aloof from the life of the body.//
Yes. He would try. He wished to return to his captain.